Riding the two last seats all the way to San Pedro, Belize

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When you wake up an this is the first thing you see, it isn't unusual to think you're dreaming or maybe in Paradise. This is the lagoon side of John and Rose East's lovely house in San Pedro where we are currently guests as we look for a new home.
When you wake up an this is the first thing you see, it isn’t unusual to think you’re dreaming or maybe in Paradise. This is the lagoon side of John and Rose East’s lovely house in San Pedro where we are currently guests as we look for a new home.

It is 7 a.m. on Tuesday. I am staring out the glass door at a white sand backyard, dotted with young coconut trees and surrounded by a crisp new wooden fence. Just beyond are the impossibly blue lagoon waters with their impossibly green mangrove islands. The canopy to all this is an impossibly blue sky. A gentle breeze cavorts through some nearby trees and birds call out to each other.

Did you ever have one of those days when everything went so well that it felt as if you were living in a dream?

Rose Alcantara prepares to leave the San Francisco Suites for a trip to the airport at 3:45 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 17, 2014.
Rose Alcantara prepares to leave the San Francisco Suites for a trip to the airport at 3:45 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 17, 2014.

Exactly 24-hours earlier, on a black chilly San Francisco morning, Rose and I were in a black town car headed for the airport, chatting in muted voices with our driver Jack who’d driven in from Richmond. I didn’t dare ask him what time he’d gotten up.

We were on our way to meet a 5:55 a.m. American Airlines flight to Dallas, which might or might not have room for us, as we were flying on standby tickets.

And if all went well, in Dallas we would have one hour to meet and board a flight to Belize, which, again, might or might not have seats for us.

And once in Belize, we would have a shot at the four remaining flights for the day — on either Mayan’s or Air Tropic’s 12-seater air taxis — to Ambergris Caye and our new life in San Pedro Town.

Every step of the way held potential for things to go terribly wrong.

In the air, headed east into the rising sun, a few hours away from Dallas-Ft. Worth. Love the colors in the sky!
In the air, headed east into the rising sun, a few hours away from Dallas-Ft. Worth. Love the colors in the sky!

But that would be so even with a full-fare ticket. Flights are often overbooked; bad weather just a couple of days earlier forced cancellation of 5,000 US flights; mechanical problems delay flights, a single fender bender on a San Francisco highway can hold up traffic for hours … I won’t go all Woody Allen over this but, yeah, I was concerned.

When we got to SFO it didn’t look good. There were at least 16 people in front of us on the standby list, some with higher priorities that ensured they would board. There we some tense moments as the plane was loaded and our names slowly rose up the priority list.

“Rose Alcantara, Robert Hawkins, report to the desk please,” said the voice on the intercom.

Oh yeah.

“Do you folks mind sitting in an exit row?” asked the agent with a serious look, as if he were damning us to the restaurant table closest to the bathrooms.photo (36)

Approaching San Pedro Town on Amberris Caye from Belize City in a Mayan Air airtaxi.
Approaching San Pedro Town on Amberris Caye from Belize City in a Mayan Air airtaxi.

“Oh hell yes!” I thought. “Leg room!”

“No. Exit row?” I said. “That would be fine.”

This scene repeated itself in Dallas where our fight arrived 28 minutes early. Rose and I even had time for a breakfast at the Blue Mesa Grille as Olympic ice dance competition replayed on NBC.

We again got the last two standby seats, which happened to be in an exit row.

In Belize we stepped off the flight into the most delightfully sweet tropical breeze I’d ever experienced. Inside the airport it was different – long lines slowly clearing customs and immigration and a curiously chaotic scene at the Mayan and Tropic ticket counters, jammed with vacationers booking air taxis to Corozal, San Ignacio, Placencia and San Pedro.

My heart sank. No way were we going to get on a flight today.

“Are you looking for a flight? Where to? How many bags? What are your names? Will you be paying cash or credit card?” I numbly answered the young man with the order book in his hand as he made notes.

“Here you just sit and relax,” he said pointing to a wooden bench. “I’ll take care of you.”

And he was gone, into the crowd clamoring for seats on a plane.

He came rushing back, “Do you mind flying Mayan? They have a plane leaving in 10 minutes. Otherwise you might get a plane in an hour or so. Maybe.”

It all happened so fast I never caught his name. Before we knew it we were the last two people – yes, again — on the 15-minute flight to San Pedro.

Almost the last plane of he day to land in San Pedro, our Mayan Air taxi carried 12 people, including Rose and me.
Almost the last plane of he day to land in San Pedro, our Mayan Air taxi carried 12 people, including Rose and me.

On the walk across the tarmac to the waiting plane, our small group was halted briefly while the prime minister of Belize, his wife and a small entourage crossed paths en route to a United Airlines plane. The PM and his wife were carrying their own bags.

We hadn’t even had time to contact John and Rose East, our friends who offered us their attached apartment as we look for a place to live. They were going to meet us at Carlos and Ernie’s Runway Bar, right next to the airport.

After storing our bags at Mayan we walked to the open air bar and sure enough, John and Rose were waiting for us. They’d just had a hunch that if all went to plan we’d be arriving between 3:30 and 5 p.m.

All went to plan.

John and Rose East meet us at Carlos & Ernie's right next to the San Pedro Airport. Here they are with my Rose, shortly after we landed on Ambergris Caye.
John and Rose East meet us at Carlos & Ernie’s right next to the San Pedro Airport. Here they are with my Rose, shortly after we landed on Ambergris Caye.

A couple of Belikin beers and some good catching up and we were headed back to Mayan to retrieve our bags. We’d watched the last flight of the day come in as the sun set and we finished our second beers. The offices were closed for the day but the fellow who had taken our bags in was waiting.

“My supervisor told me to close up but I told him you were coming back for your bags. I wasn’t going to leave you without your bags on your first night in San Pedro! I would have waited for you,” he explained in a cheery voice like you would never have heard under similar circumstances in, say, New York.

After that it was all a cheery blur – cab ride to John and Rose’s new home, golf cart ride back to Carlos and Ernie’s for dinner, them home to bed.

And here we are. No dream. Just wonderful people every step of the way.

Today, we’ll look for a pair of bicycles to get around and a long-term rental to live in. If our luck of yesterday holds up, this should be a breeze.

A lovely warm caressing tropical breeze …

Welcome to Belize.

Rose along the beach north of the bridge on Ambergris Caye. This photo is from last October. Not that much has changed, thankfully!
Rose along the beach north of the bridge on Ambergris Caye. This photo is from last October. Not that much has changed, thankfully!
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23 thoughts on “Riding the two last seats all the way to San Pedro, Belize

    Susan Moore said:
    February 18, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing. I am so exited for you…I might as well be shopping for a bike and an apartment, too!

    Like

    Brent Doig said:
    February 18, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    that is so awesome. I am always amazed, but never surprised now, buy how awesome the people are and how efficient they are:) I will be doing what you are doing hopefully in 6ish months…good luck. Brent

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      February 18, 2014 at 8:08 pm

      Good luck to you, Brent! Yes, the people we have met have a huge capacity for kindness.

      Like

    Paul Cloutier said:
    February 18, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    all’s well that ends well !! May your good fortune continue.

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      February 18, 2014 at 8:07 pm

      Thank you, Paul. We have been extraordinarily fortunate to this point.

      Like

    Karen Kelly said:
    February 18, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    Oh, so happy for the two of you. Yeah! Keep the posts coming. I love reading everything about this story. And….I know the characters. How lucky am I?

    Like

    Marjorie Trolinder said:
    February 18, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    Congratulations on your successful journey. It sounds like you have arrived in a heavenly place. All the best to you and Rose in your search for a home. Hope to meet you one day in your island paradise, can almost feel the balmy breezes! Cheers, Marge-Fairfield, CA

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      February 18, 2014 at 8:06 pm

      Hi Marjorie — as soon as we find a place to live I’ll start thinking of it as heaven! Tomorrow, perhaps!

      Like

    lifeagain said:
    February 18, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    safe and sound with a whole lot of kindness along the way…..it was meant to be…..
    I love a good American blue collar Democratic story of a life of struggle, love and kindness for your fellow man, hard work, found soul mate and eventual retirement. I am easily into this story for another 10 years.
    Glad you made it to yet another great step to an adventurous journey
    Don
    uhhhhhhh, you have/do vote Democratic ticket right?

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      February 18, 2014 at 8:16 pm

      Thanks Donald. Yes, I have spent my entire political life voting left of center — Democrats, Progressives, Liberals, Preservationists, Conservationists, Tree-Huggers, Peaceniks, Yippies, and the occasional cute puppy …. I am a sucker for any cause that will lift the average man and woman to a better place in life. I do believe that all people should have access to a better life, a fair wage, a good job and a nice pair of comfortable shoes.

      Like

    Betsy said:
    February 18, 2014 at 6:39 pm

    Good karma goes a long way! Wishing you all the best in your new life in Belize.

    Like

    lifeoutofthebox said:
    February 18, 2014 at 6:43 pm

    What a great way to start the adventure you two. So glad all went well and that you are now in beautiful Belize. Thinking about you both and can’t wait to read more! Love you, Q & JB 🙂

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      February 18, 2014 at 8:10 pm

      Same to you. Life Out of the Box remains an inspiration and source of huge pride.

      Like

    Pat said:
    February 18, 2014 at 6:50 pm

    That was so fantastic, what a great entrée to you new life adventure!!
    Enjoy xoxoxoxolove you 2.
    Patty

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      February 18, 2014 at 8:05 pm

      Thank you so much, Pat and also for your wonderful love and hospitality. Walter’s too!

      Like

    Robin said:
    February 18, 2014 at 7:34 pm

    What a Fantastic Adventure! It was meant to be!!! Everything will fall in place for you

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      February 18, 2014 at 8:04 pm

      Thanks, Robin. We miss you, my little Mustang Sally ….

      Like

    Miranda said:
    February 18, 2014 at 9:15 pm

    I will have a 2 BR 2ba condo available from mid April to early Sept. If you are interested, we can talk.

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      February 19, 2014 at 11:04 am

      Miranda, that is so nice of you. I’m afraid we have to land something right away or start sleeping on the beach! (Well, not that drastic, although a hammock might do ….) Really appreciate you stepping up!
      Bob

      Like

    Kathy Chavis said:
    February 19, 2014 at 10:57 am

    Thanks so much for sharing. Counting down the wks (16) til we arrive. Lobster Festival week. Cheers.

    Like

    Emily said:
    February 20, 2014 at 9:30 am

    SO glad your trip went so smoothly. When the universe makes things that easy, you just know it is meant to be!

    Like

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